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Movie Review

Tropic Thunder a.k.a. “Una Guerra de película”

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.

Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action, Comedy, War
Length:
1 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
August 13, 2008 (3,000 theaters)
DVD release: November 18, 2008
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, DreamWorks

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Featuring: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Steve Coogan, Bill Hader, Nick Nolte, Brandon Soo Hoo, Reggie Lee, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Tobey Maguire, Mickey Rooney, Justin Theroux, Holly Weber, Jasmine Dustin, Valerie Azlynn, Yvette Nicole Brown, Anya Monzikova, Nadine Ellis, Andrea De Oliveira, Junie Hoang, Matt Levin, Jan Rooney, Danielle Engen, Trieu Tran, David Pressman, Heather Palmer, Rachel Avery, Kaylee Beth Dodson, Eric Feliciano, Elizabeth Thieme, Jason Collett, Mike Hoagland, Tri Le, Neill Skylar, Shannon Kane, Tara Paskal, Jeff Weidemann, Angela Daun
Director: Ben Stiller
Producer: Stuart Cornfeld, Patrick Esposito, Eric McLeod, Ben Stiller
Distributor: DreamWorks

“The movie they think they’re making… isn’t a movie anymore.”

Ben Stiller is back and Robert Downey Jr. is Black! In “Tropic Thunder,” Stiller proves that he still has some originality and satire in his comedic repertoire. This star-studded farce features a truly all-star cast, with minor roles going to Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise, as well as cameos by Tyra Banks, Alicia Silverstone, Lance Bass, Jon Voight, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Jason Bateman.

Stiller writes, directs, and stars in this smart movie about five actors who were having difficulty getting into character as they were filming a military biopic based upon the Vietnam memoirs of John “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte). Dissatisfied with their performance, Tayback convinces neophyte director, Damien Cockburn, to take the actors on a real tour of duty in the jungles of Vietnam—the actors just don’t know they are being dropped into a heavily guarded section of an international heroin ring. Facing certain death, the actors: Academy Award-winner Kirk Lazarus (played by Robert Downey Jr.) who has chemically altered his skin to portray the Black sergeant; Tugg Speedman (Stiller) who is trying to make a comeback after a string of disappointing films; Jeff Portnoy (played by Jack Black) is a rising star having played a family of characters who enjoyed farting—a la the Klumps from the Nutty Professor fame; Brandon Jackson plays a rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino; and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) who is just breaking into the acting world—must fight their way out of the jungle.

This film has raised the ire of some civil rights groups for Downey’s blackface performance and from disabilities advocacy groups for Stiller’s portrayal of a mentally retarded buffoon. Lazarus will go to any length to portray his characters and refuses to get out of character until the “making of the film” interviews for the DVD are concluded. This, of course, causes problems for Chino who struggles with Lazarus’ stereotypical portrayal. Speedman’s greatest dramatic role was that of simpleton Happy Jack, who takes significant abuse and ridicule from those around him. What the critics may have missed is the satirical message about Hollywood’s portrayal of the “different.” Stiller manages to shine a sarcastic spotlight on the media industry, including merchandising, commercialism, formulaic content, celebrity excess, and the pressures of popularity and stardom.

The biggest drawback of this film is its penchant for bad language; there is no shortage of f-bombs in this movie, especially in the scenes featuring Tom Cruise, as the successful media mogul and executive producer of the “film,” Les Grossman (Cruise’s make-up is flawless; if you don’t recognize his voice, you would not know it is Cruise). The sheer number of curse words is staggering; this film will be a major bleep-fest when it hits cable syndication in a few years. There is also a moment towards the end of the film where it is presumed that Chino is involved in a gay relationship with singer Lance Bass. The blood-and-gore from the military set may be a bit over the top for some viewers.

This is the kind of film that Stiller was born to write and direct.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I thought this movie was a good movie. the f-word was used a lot and there was some other language and some sexual references. The violence is way overrated its more like joke gore although some of it does look pretty real and then you realize that they're filming a movie and its special effects. I thought this movie was really funny but the f-word was used a little much. There was no sex or nudity or girls wearing hardly anything (except in the very first seen but you don't even know the movie has started yet so its hard to catch.) If you don't mind lots of bad language or a little violence and gore then this movie is for.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Tim M, age 19
Positive—First off, I would like to say that I am an atheist and I do not hate religion. I just think that it would be fair that my opinion should be allowed to be expressed because it would be wrong to hide my comment from Christians that visit this Web site. They can decide their own religion so they should be exposed to other faiths. Anyways, on with the movie review.

I think that Tropic Thunder was amazing. It was dumb humor that shouldn't be taken seriously. I was laughing during the entire movie. I don't think was anything wrong with the fact that the movie had unchristian values. It's not like the movie business needs to promote Christianity. Freedom of speech is the greatest thing to happen to humanity so I was not offended because I respect other's opinions. (Please don't delete this comment. I don't think that my opinion should be hidden from Christian eyes. They can decide their own religion.)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jack Pezirle, age 16
Positive—This is the funniest satire to come out of Hollywood in a long, long time. Genius performances by Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise. Hilarious send up of Hollywood vanities, Vietnam movies's tendencies to over-excess. Sure its vulgar and grotesque, but so is life. The nice thing about Tropic Thunder is that its side-splitting hilarious, which is a welcome relief in these troubled times when we have Vietnam vets pimping their horror stories as cheap political stunts
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Pete Weets, age 38
Positive—…You complain about not knowing what you're getting into. Well, I can normally tell just by looking at the rating reason: “Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.” The word “pervasive” here means “wall-to-wall.” Expect about 100+ uses of the f-word in that case. The kids-in-mind site will give you exact details on every single act of violence, sex, and profanity in the film.

In today's age of the internet, there is no reason why you should not know what exactly you're walking into. Thus, if you end up being offended for watching an R-rated comedy with pervasive language and sexual content, it's your own fault. It is callous of me to put it that way, but that's the most direct way to put it.

As for the movie itself: Great satire! Very, very funny indeed. The fake trailers have the audience laughing even before the Dreamworks logo! Anyone who has made movies or knows a lot about making movies will find this movie a scream! It hits Hollywood so well and so hard, yet at the same time it still shows a deep affection for the movie industry; after all, this itself is a movie.

The acting is great, especially on the part of Robert Downey Jr. He's made a real comeback this year. This entire film is miles above “Zoolander,” Ben Stiller's last directorial outing.

Morals: Well, it's a satire on Hollywood. You learn about how insecure people can be, even when they're really rich. Security comes through being sure of yourself in God. Etc. etc. etc. Don't take kids into the theater. Mature teens, yes. Immature teens, no. And have discussions with your mature teens afterwards. In fact, it is crucial you have discussions! And if your mature teens really want to see it, but you don't feel secure enough in your faith, you have two options: Refuse to take them, at which they'll most definitely see it at some later date without your supervision. Or just grit your teeth and take them, discuss with them and give your supervision, and pat yourself on the back for being a good parent.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jm, age 18
Neutral
Neutral—This movie was extremely funny. The points that may have been offensive were. The f-word was used a lot. Some drug references and there were a bunch of other parts that could be considered offensive though not as noticeable. There was NO nudity or sexual content although there was a few sexual references. The only scene that had a scantily clad woman from what I can remember, was the very first scene, however it's not obvious that the movie has started yet and it's very brief. The violence is ridiculously movie special effects and very overrated there is a lot of fake blood. I was very surprised with this movie because usually funny R rated movies are dirty and have nudity. This film had none of that although there were a few references but not many. Some peoples standards may not approve of this but I try to avoid movies with nudity or sexual content and I guess that is my main standard. I hope this helps out someone in deciding whether to view this movie or not.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tim, age 19
Neutral—So, a non-Christian filmmaker is directing a movie that satirizes Hollywood and all its vices, and somehow we expect it to be G-rated? Really?
Don't get me wrong; the movie is not very good. Robert Downey Jr. does an amazing job and some of the satire is on target, but the film's biggest crime is that it doesn't go far enough. The pretension and self-righteousness of Hollywood is a nice, fat softball, just waiting for somebody to knock it out of the park. Stiller, however, chooses the most obvious of the jokes and executes them as broadly as possible (with the exception of Downey's character and performance, of course).
If you're going to dislike the film, there's plenty of purely artistic reasons to do so. One can't go into a secular R-rated film expecting it to be “Left Behind,” much in the same way as a person can't go into McDonald's looking for a pizza.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tyler Smith, age 26
Neutral—So… I read the other reviews before I watched this film, and my best guess is that the unrated version released on video that I watched was a bit different than the version in the theater? The violence in the movie was purposefully excessive and gory to be a spoof on actual war movies, done in a way to be shockingly funny. Like when Stiller's character acts like he's eating bits out of the bottom of a real decapitated head that he eventually parades around on top of his gun, to persuade his comrades that it's just special effects and not real. GROSS! To break down the unrated video: nonstop swearing, a ton of graphic sexual jokes, gore and violence, and brief random nudity towards the beginning of the film where Matthew Mc flips through a portfolio of naked women (what was that all about?). I hate that they only release the unrated versions on video here. So bear in mind if you go to rent this, that the reviews on this site might not apply to the movie you are renting.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Jenny, age 32 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I wish my sister had never chosen to see this movie on her birthday! My wife and I were ready to walk out within the first minute. It was excruciating to sit through. The “f” word is used literally hundreds and hundreds of times—along with many other sexually vulgar references, and statements. The “f” word becomes the least of your concerns as the movie progresses. Tom Cruise's character has the most filthy, vulgar, offensive mouth of all. I guess the language is a somewhat “realistic” representation of the language used in some parts of the military, but this was way over the top. If you are a Christian, don't waste your money! I had no idea what I was walking into, although I'm a big fan of Stiller and other comedians in this movie. The problem is, very very little of this movie is actually funny. And I love comedy! Stay very far away from this one, you will never regret it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Mike Davies, age 40
Negative—DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT see this movie. This was a waste of time and money. My husband and I don't go to the latest movies very often, and I was so disappointed that we spent good money to see this movie. I should have walked out within the first 2 minutes of the movie, but I didn't even realize I was watching the movie until a while later. The entire movie was filled with profanity, every other word was the f-word. There was sexual comments, at one point one male character described giving oral sex to another male character. This was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. They just went toooo far. I would say about 10% of the movie was funny the rest was horrific.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Melesia, age 26
Negative—I usually like Ben Stiller movies, and even though this was R rated I thought it looked funny. From the beginning the movie was non-stop cursing. The Lord's name was taken in vain frequently. I think that every vice that could be included in the movie (very overt sexual content and language, drug use, greed, etc…), was included. I really wish that I would have walked out, but kept waiting for the movie to get better.

I will say that the movie had its funny moments, but to get to those you have to sit through allot of very offensive content. I'm not sure why Ben Stiller went this route, as the movie could have been much better without so much cursing and vice (particularly with the all-star cast). I would suggest to anyone considering watching this movie, based on other Ben Stiller movies, to reconsider.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—John, age 34
Negative—I was so disappointed in this film. To be honest, it has been a long time since I have seen an R rated film, but thought it couldn't be too bad since it had Ben Stiller and Jack Black in it, whom I love—I'm a big Nacho Libre/Night At The Museum/Meet the Parents/School of Rock fan. From the very first “move trailer” (which is actually part of the movie) that was shown in the theater, I was ready to leave. My husband and I walked out after the 97th f-word. Not only was the language the worst I had ever heard, the movie wasn't funny. I think it was a clever idea and could have been made into a great film, but it wasn't. On a positive note, Robert Downey Jr. did an amazing job in his role as a black man and the quality of the movie was very good. Unfortunately, I have lost a lot of respect for Jack Black and Ben Stiller who usually make fun, light hearted movies. It will take some time for me to recover from seeing three little children watch the movie in the theater with their parents. I couldn't watch half of scenes myself because they were overtly graphic. I give this a negative 5 stars and don't recommend it to anyone. My husband and I left the theater very heavy hearted.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Leslie Hasslinger, age 40
Negative—Absolutely far and above the worst movie I have ever seen in my life. There is not one redeeming quality in this movie. Aside from the constant cursing, wandering plot line, poor performances and general trash there is not even one single funny moment in the entire film. I regret allowing my entire family to sit through this but it was the last day of our Australian vacation and we wanted to zero out before flying out. I had no inkling just how close to “zero” we actually got. Give your money to the taxman rather than seeing this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Martin Ulrich, age 47
Negative—This movie was awful. Not only was the language extremely offensive (a little cursing doesn't bother me, but this was WAY over the top), the overall plot was just horrible. Also, as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I was not only offended, but hurt at the way this movie portrayed people with developmental disabilities. I understand that “poking fun” at someone can sometimes be done tastefully to add to the humor of a movie. However, this was NOT the case in this movie. They went WAY too far in their attempt to be funny and it didn't work-it was not funny-at all. I usually love Ben Stiller and Jack Black and think they are funny and (somewhat) talented actors, however after this movie, I will not be as quick to rent movies that they are in. I am almost certain that any Christian would be highly offended at this movie, and urge you not to waste your time or money on it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Emily Vesper, age 29
Negative—Absolute garbage!
There is no redeeming value to this movie and it can only serve to waste your money. I was not morally able to view more than 1/2 this movie, though I kept hoping there was some point to it.
I thought this would be a spoof of sorts, but found instead, that this was a delinquant's way of using cussing in every possible sentence and making light of every possible idea.
The swearing is worse than any Al Pacino movie and there is semblance of story to this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Joel Weber, age 36
Negative—We rented this movie from the store after reading some of the reviews about it. Having a 15 year old son we are particularly looking for any sexual stuff. WARNING: if you get through the opening “previews,” it's only minutes away from an appearance from Matthew McConaughey who it talking on the phone with Ben Stiller and after just a couple minutes, he is sitting at his desk flipping through a porno magazine, which, to my horror, the movie shows the pages he's looking at—fully exposed breasts, and not just one picture, but several pages of them! Not only was I mad that the movie portrays this as something a “normal” man does (not a Christian man), but it literally showed the pornography to my son as we were watching the movie. Needless to say, we stopped the movie at that point. There had been enough f-bombs already, but to add porno to it was too much. The reviews all said no nudity, but in the fine print on the rental box it DOES say nudity. Viewers beware when you rent this… it is unrated.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Lynn, age 45
Comments from young people
Positive—I thought that this movie was awesome. I know that it may have been offensive to some but it should have already been obvious that it would be offensive so easily offended people should not have seen it. The cast was hilarious. The overall idea was brilliant. It didn't feel like “just another spoof movie.” It is true that the movie had unchristian values but there is nothing wrong with that because freedom of speech gives the movie makers the right to say what they want and also, movies shouldn't need christian values. Otherwise that would be unfair because then you might as well say that it needs the values of every other religion to make it fair.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jack, age 16
Positive—I thought it was great! And I just thought I would put a positive comment on this movie because I laughed so hard I cried 5 times!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Ami, age 15
Positive—From a Christian standpoint, there isn't much to say about it (it is very offensive).
However, the film critic in me loved it.
Satires rarely feature Christian content as their intention is to mock, belittle, and ridicule.
And this film succeeds.

If you are tired of Hollywierd (misspelling intentional) dissing you and fellow Christians and just want some 2-hour payback, then this is your film. You get to see them brutally mocked and shown for the hypocrites they are.
They are portrayed as the most self-absorbed, insecure people on the planet.
They adopt children not out of love and kindness but because it is a fad, adopting kids from third world countries are 'in.'
They act like they are the center of the universe and getting a Tivo is the most important thing the film.
The two most (or only) likeable characters are the rapper and the young actor, they represent “us” or 'mouth breathers.'
The film is filled to the brim with bad language, especially the obscene, short-tempered studio executive (Tom Cruise's best role in years—and I mean it!).

Tom Cruise also reminds you why you used to enjoy his films—he is perfect in his role. As is Matthew McConaghey (or however his last name is spelled).

As I said, it is very offensive, but it is a satire meant to poke fun at Hollywood, not exactly a place where Christian virtues flourish.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kit, age 18
Neutral—I Started watching this thinking it was a different movie (as so didn't notice the rating) and so went about it with a different view. I agree there was a lot wrong with this movie—but if you take it as a spoof, ignore some of the language (as in Army circles, there is a lot). It is actually a good idea for a movie. To say they were dealing with a delicate subject of Vietnam they made an amusing movie, with some very funny “American Soldier” moments. If you don't like a bit of gore, and detest the odd bit of language, don't bother watching it—It's not a movie to devote a whole 2 hours of your life to, but it's okay to have on in the background as you do something else.

From a movie perspective, I did expect much more from Stiller and Jack Black, as I love some of their earlier works… It did tend to drag in places, but all together not a bad effort.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—James Peterson, age 15
Negative—I had heard such good things—maybe “good” isn't exactly the correct word to use—that I made the mistake of purchasing the film without prior viewing. When will I ever learn my lesson? I watched the “Director's Cut” version, which adds almost ten minutes of added footage. Why would they add any extra footage to this trap? This film is exactly that—a trap. The entire film I was waiting for it to get funny. Some moments were humorous, but not enough to actually make me laugh. The film was terrible in many aspects—over the top violence that wasn't funny (as it was intended to be), sexual material and drug content. In some movies, drug withdrawal is funny to watch (which shouldn't be because it really is horrible), but it's just gross in “Tropic Thunder.”

The acting is great, but the script just wasn't. I am a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr., I mostly like Jack Black, and occasionally Ben Stiller. With all of them together in one film, my hopes were set high. I was let down. This movie was just too long, at a 2-hour running time. Any Christian really shouldn't watch this movie. I am ashamed I watched it. I will admit I have seen plenty of trash, but something about this movie left me depressed.

On one positive note, the end credits—where Tom Cruise cuts the rug—is extremely funny. What a goof he is! If you still really want to watch this movie, I can't stop you, but I highly suggest you stay away. The worst aspect of the film was the young Asian boy as the ruthless, cigar-smoking dictator of the bad-guy group. Okay, I have said enough. Stay away, please!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Ben Badger, age 17 (USA)
Movie Critics
…crude showbiz circus… Nobody in the movie acts. They just do drag. … a satire of the Hollywood industrial complex that also feels very much a product of that complex. …
—Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
…Hey, an original idea for a comedy!… hilariously mocks many actors’ inability to do what they pretend to do, the interchangeable nature of war movies and Hollywood's weakness for award-baiting seriousness.
—Matt Pais, Chicago Tribune (Metromix)
…while the film is clever, with some very funny moments, it is excessive, both with the R-rated content and the comic situations themselves. …
—Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…profane, crude and politically incorrect. It’s also uproariously funny—the year’s best comedy—and has a winning performance from Robert Downey Jr.… but its language is very ‘R’-rated.
—Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk

According to The Hollywood Reporter magazine, “Special Olympics chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver and other leaders of disabled advocacy groups have slammed the ‘use of the r-word’ in the film ‘Tropic Thunder’ to describe people with intellectual disabilities. The advocacy coalition said it would stage a protest Monday night outside the Westwood premiere of the DreamWorks/Paramount film. The protesters also were calling for a ‘Tropic’ boycott.”